Fund Our Future: The teachers and education staff professionals that serve Florida’s students deserve competitive salaries, benefits, and pay raises that count toward retirement not fleeting and discriminatory bonus schemes.
Florida’s educators are struggling just to make ends meet; far too many have to work a second or even a third, job to be able to afford to live in the community where they work. As a state we rank 45th in teacher pay and 47th in pay for education staff professionals.
The Florida Legislature’s shortsighted policies have starved our schools of much-needed funds for years on end. In addition to shrinking pay for educators these policies have led to a critical and growing teacher and staff shortage in Florida.
It has not always been this way.
Average teacher pay in the state has actually gone backwards in the past decade — decreasing by 12.2 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2009 to 2018. In fact, since 2006 Florida fell from 29th to 45th nationally in rankings of average teacher pay. Education staff professionals have fared even worse.
Why has this happened?
The Florida Legislature has placed no emphasis on maintaining or increasing salaries for its educators and has instead spent well over a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars on fleeting gimmicks like performance pay.
In 2006, Effectiveness Compensation (E-Comp) became the first state-funded model of bonuses for teachers. E-Comp lasted for only one year before being replaced by Special Teachers Are Rewarded (STAR) — which didn’t last long either. STAR was then replaced by Merit Award Pay (MAP). Perhaps the most nonsensical bonus is the current bonus program “Best and Brightest.”
Best and Brightest rewards teachers who did well on the SAT or ACT when they were in high school. While the Florida Senate has proposed changes to the program, it still would be heavily reliant on test scores, and it still excludes tremendous amounts of dedicated educators including pre-school teachers, instructional staff who aren’t classroom teachers, and all education staff professionals.
In spite of the chronic underfunding of and attacks on public education students in Florida’s public schools consistently perform tops in the nation. But educators here are clearly reaching a boiling point. It is time for the teachers and education staff professional who dedicate their lives to educating students to be paid at the top in the nation. Florida must invest in its workforce and stop its reliance on “bonus” programs which have shown no evidence of increasing student achievement.